In Aid of the Abolition of Slavery,
In the United States of America
by Theodore Dwight Weld
The Institution of behalf of which the present application is made, is situated in the northern part of Ohio, near the head of the great valley of the Mississippi. It has a Charter with University privileges, and originated in the following circumstances:-
The Students at Lane Seminary, (a Theological College,) at Cincinnati, in Ohio, in 1834, having become interested in the Abolition controversy, held a protracted discussion among themselves on the subject, and after three days solemn debate, came to a resolution condemnatory of Slavery as incompatible with the spirit and precepts of Christianity. They formed an Abolition Society, and took means to acquaint themselves more thoroughly with the real nature of the slave system, and of the obligations which which devolved on them in relation to it. These measures gave great offense to the Heads of the College, who authoritatively interposed to prevent any further discussion of the subject. The young men were prohibited from making it the topic of conversation, "on ordinary occasions and elsewhere," and on remonstrance, were given to understand that their continuance in the Seminary, was dependent on their yielding an unqualified submission to this injunction. The heads of College were positive, and it was left for the students either to sacrifice their duty to God and remain; or to maintain it and leave. They nobly chose the latter, and the result was that about forty of the most pious and talented, were thus compelled to quit Lane Seminary. Such a body of young men who so conscientiously maintained their principles at the expense of their prospects in life, was hailed with joy by the abolitionists, for it at once supplied them with a number of most zealous advocates.
It now became necessary to establish an Institution, in which the rights of conscience and of the Christian religion should be maintained, and in which the coloured person could be taught, and where they would be in all respects treated as a man and a brother.
A tract of 500 acres, in the midst of a forest, was obtained; and thither this noble band repaired, and commenced cutting down the timber and clearing the land; and so ardent were they in this cause, that they freely submitted to all the hardships incident to these new circumstances, and persevered in their labour during the Winter season of 1834 and 1835.
Thus commenced the present Institution, which consists of a brick building 111 feet long, and 42 feet wide; containing ninety-two rooms, including a Hall and a Library, with nine other buildings chiefly of wood, and a barn. There are about 200 acres of land partially cleared, and brought into cultivation. A practical farmer superintends the cultivation; the labour is performed by the Students for the support, maintenance, and general good of the Institution.
In all its features this Institution is opposed to Slavery; and is a practical and standing exhibition of the great doctrine of immediate emancipation, producing its legitimate and beneficent results; youth are admitted to all its privileges, without regard to colour, or nation, and there is a department for the instruction of females. It is thoroughly evangelical in its spirit and character, is free from all sectarian partialities, discards the prejudice of caste in its various and disgraceful forms, and has already become a terror to the slave-holder, and a shield and a solace to the victim of the white man's tyranny. By uniting the youth of all colours in the same course of Academical training, it furnishes a practical method of elevating the African race, of abolishing the tyranny of caste, and of opening an effectual door through which the black and the free-coloured man may attain the rights of citizenship, and the blessings of a quiet and protected home. It compromises a Preparatory, Collegiate, and Theological department, and at present, numbers above 450 Students with twenty-six Professors and Teachers. This Institution is the great nursery of teachers for the coloured people in the United States and Canada, in the latter of which are 10,000 refugees from American bondage. It is an admirable school for the training of Anti-Slavery Lecturers and Preachers, - a class of men long demanded and now called for more urgently than ever by the state of the Abolition controversy, and the increasing horrors of the American slave system. Several of the Students have already entered on this arduous and self-denying field of labour, others are looking forward to the same holy calling. Twelve have gone to the West Indies as missionaries and teachers of the emancipated negroes, ten are on their way to the oppressed Aborigines in the Western parts of America, and twenty are engaged among the coloured fugitives in Canada.
During the annual vacations, the students and professors have traversed extensively the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and the Western parts of New York and Pennsylvania. Wherever they have gone, drooping liberty has revived and gained strength.
With the noble exception of the Oneida Institute in the State of New York, which in the midst of persecution has stood erect and pre-eminently true to the slave, mighty in its free testimony and terrible to the oppressor, the Institution of Oberlin is the only one in the United States in which the black and coloured student finds a home, where he is fully and joyfully regarded as a man and a brother.
The stand which has been taken at Oberlin against Slavery, and the prejudice respecting colour, has excited not only the bitter hostility of the upholders of Slavery, but also of a large proportion of the professing church. Another cause of offense is, that at this Institution a plan of manual daily labour is adopted, shared in alike by the white as well as the coloured man. The founders of this Institution consider this plan most important to the health, industry, energetic habits, independence of character, good morals, and economy of the students.
It would be injustice to the Professors of this Institution, not to mention the sacrifices they have generously made, and the hardships they have borne in this cause. There is no Institution in the United States with the same number of instructors, whose Professors are men of more eminent ability; and yet these men, whose qualifications might command the highest salaries, are supporting themselves and their families, upon a very humble income; and, since the commercial distress which fell so heavily about three years since on many of its most able supporters, the Professors have been obliged to employ the vacations in labour, to provide food and clothing for their families.
The necessities of the Institution are now so pressing, that its operations must inevitably cease, if effectual relief be not speedily afforded. The Professors, their families, and the Students, have often been reduced to such straits, even for their daily food, that from week to week they have not known from whence the next providential supply would come. Thus far, through the kind care of Him whose eyes are over all his works, when to human view the last resource was cut off, and no earthly alternative remained, their daily wants have been supplied, and their hearts strengthened, to wait in the patience of hope, and to look to God for a like supply on the morrow.
Towards the support of the Oberlin Institute, the Abolitionists of America have contributed with their accustomed liberality. Sixty-five thousand dollars (£13,000) were subscribed to establish this Institution; but, owing to the fire in New York, and the commercial distress which has since been experienced in the United States, many, who tree years since were wealthy, are now reduced in their circumstances, and have become unable to fulfill their engagements to this Institution. Few of the Abolitionists are wealthy, and the demand for funds to sustain the general operations of their Anti-Slavery Society, presses heavily upon them. It is difficult for the friend of the negro in Great Britain, to form any adequate conception of the pecuniary pressure which rests on the American Abolitionists. Opposed by the great majority of their countrymen, and denounced - disgracefully denounced by many of the churches of the land, they have been called to pecuniary sacrifices, such as modern times have rarely witness, and to which nothing could have prompted them but a solemn conviction of duty towards God and their fellow-man. "To their power, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves," and their acts will stand out in the history of a progressive benevolence, as a pattern for the church's imitation.
It is under these circumstances, that the friends of the Oberlin Institute apply to the philanthropists and Christians of Great Britain. So long as they were able to sustain its operations themselves, they willingly did so, but the failure of their means now obliges them to make an appeal to their British brethren, which for the honour of the country and the good of an oppressed and suffering race, we trust will be liberally responded to. The Institute is already in debt, and the sum owing bears a high rate of interest. The Professors and their families have long been reduces to the greatest straits, and must soon, though in deep bitterness of heart, relinquish their stations, unless God in his providence raises them help.
ARTHUR TAPPAN, LA ROY SUNDERLAND, JAMES G. BIRNEY, JOHN G. WHITTIER, JAMES FORTEN, JOSEPH SOUTHWICK, THANKFUL SOUTHWICK, ELLIS GREY LORING, CHARLES FOLLEN, HENRY B. STANTON, SAMUEL J. MAY, WILLIAM L. GARRISON, HENRY GREW, JAMES C. FULLER, ANGELINA D. WELD, SARAH M. GRIMKE, THEODORE D. WELD, JAMES MCCUNE SMITH, LEWIS TAPPAN, JOSHUA LEAVITT, GERRIT SMITH, CHARLES W. GARDNER, SAMUEL E. CORNISH, DAVID LEE CHILD, MARIA W. CHAPMAN, MARY S. PARKER, WENDELL PHILLIPS, HENRY G. CHAPMAN, AMASA WALKER, FRANCIS JACKSON, ROBERT PURVIS, ALVAN STEWART, PETER WILLIAMS, JOSHUA R. GIDDINGS, E. C. DELAVAN
Who are among the leading abolitionists of the United States, and who thus write by the Deputation.
"From our knowledge of the Professors at Oberlin, of the spirit that pervades the Institution, and of the mighty influence, young as it is, which is already putting forth, we feel solemnly moved by duty, and sweetly constrained by love to the truth, and honour for its faithful avowal, to give our emphatic testimony in favour of the Oberlin Institute. We believe it to be accomplishing more for freedom of thought, speech, and conscience, more for the great cause of human liberty and equal rights, the annihilation of prejudice and caste in every form - more to honour God, to exalt his Truth, and to purify a corrupt church and ministry, than any other Institution in the United States."
On a review of the whole circumstances of the Oberlin Institute, its origin, history, and tendency, the conviction must be deeply felt, that it is pre-eminently adapted to compass the benevolent and Christian object of its founders; that it is friendly alike to the elevation of an oppressed people, and the emancipation of the American churches from their vassalage to the spirit of this world, and that it is strongly commended to the friends of the slave and the coloured free man, and, indeed, to all who are concerned for the welfare of their species, and the purity of the church of Christ.
The object has received the sanction of the following persons by Subscriptions and otherwise:
An account is opened with Messrs. HANBURY, TAYLOR, and LLOYD'S, Bankers, [100?] Lombard Street.
ROBERT FORSTER, GEORGE STACEY, and CORNELIUS HANBURY, Esqrs. have kindly consented to be a Committee of Reference, who will inspect, audit, and publish the account of monies received.
To John Keep, and W. Dawes, the Deputation from Oberlin.
London, July 6th, 1839
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
Receive an Englishman's warmest welcome to these shores. I greet you as devoted and self-denying laborours in the cause which carried me, and still knits me to your country. You come accredited by the known and loved men and women who are valiantly fighting the battles of religious liberty in the land of slavery. You are therefore doubly welcome.
I feel an intense desire for the success of your mission to Great Britain. I cordially approve your errand - with all my heart I commend your object. The claims of the Oberlin Institute are many and strong - its necessities urgent and increasing. I consider your appeal to the people of this country for pecuniary aid, legitimate and proper. You are pleading for an Institution of no ordinary or common kind, but for one whose origin, design, and operations, are of a special and unexampled character.
The Oberlin Institute came into existence during the early part of my visit to the United States. It was created by the exigencies of the anti-slavery cause, and has ever since been linked to that cause by the most serious ties. I beheld its birth with peculiar interest. I have watched its growth, I have admired its principles, I have rejoiced in its usefulness; and deeming it more than ever required by the circumstances of the times, I pray that it may be preserved, and assisted to carry out its plans for the sake of the slave, and the persecuted man of colour throughout the world.
The grounds on which (in my opinion) you may fairly and cogently urge the claims of the Institution you represent, upon the sympathy and liberal support of the British public are, -
1. That it exists with special reference to the slave - his emancipation and subsequent elevation as a rational and immortal being.
2. That it discards prejudice and caste in every form, and exhibits in the land of proscription and slavery, the delightful scene of the coloured student and the white student sitting together on terms of perfect equality, and affectionate brotherhood, and has thus become the butt of reproach and hostility.
3. That it has already furnished teachers to the coloured population of our British Canadian Provinces, in which there are more than ten thousand refugee slaves, whose worth as subjects of this realm will be incalculably increased, by the knowledge imparted to them by the students from Oberlin.
4. That it has sent young men as teachers to the coloured people of the United States, and the emancipated negroes of the Island of Jamaica, and will continue to train up others for the same noble work.
5. That those who came under voluntary pledges to support the Institute, have been unexpectedly embarrassed by commercial misfortunes, and cannot do anything towards Oberlin, without withdrawing their contributions from the other anti-slavery operations of the United States, which demand all the aid they can possibly render.
6. That the abolition principles held and taught at Oberlin are not confined in their application to the United States, but regard the enslaved in every part of the world, and, therefore, that the Oberlin Institute is part and parcel of the great machinery for the universal overthrow of slavery and the slave-trade.
On these grounds, as well as because I love America, and especially those who are associated with you in your present disinterested effort, I feel it a duty and privilege to subscribe to the utmost of my ability, and to render this testimony to the excellence of your object. I look on Oberlin as an inestimable blessing to America and the world, and I should mourn over its fall as a signal calamity to the cause of the suffering and the oppressed.
That God may grant you favour in the eyes of my countrymen and countrywomen, and prosper you to the extent of your largest wishes, is the desire of
Your friend and fellow labourer,
I am respectfully,
Birmingham, 6th month 17, 1839
London, Oct. 30th, 1839
During my late sojourn in the United States I had the advantage of becoming acquainted with many of the friends of, and some of the gentlemen who have matriculated at, the Oberlin Institute. When I mention that among the former were to be found such men as Lewis Tappan, J. G. Birney, Joshua Leavitt, H. B. Stanton, and Theodore Weld - men alike distinguished for their intelligence, philanthropy, and Christian excellence, and their self-sacrificing labours in the cause of the oppressed slave; - I am satisfied, that to all who know them, the Institution needs no other recommendation than the warm approval they have given to its objects.
I conceive the Oberlin Institute to be worthy of the cordial support of the friends of religion and the enemies of slavery in this country, and trust that your disinterested efforts to render it permanently and extensively useful, will be crowned with abundant success.
Yours very truly,
As many persons in this country may be unacquainted with the nature of Slavery as it exists in America, the following is appended, by which it may be seen what great difficulties the Abolitionists in that country have to contend with, owing to the state of the laws, and also the efforts that are made to prevent not only the actual slave, but free coloured persons in many of the States, from being taught to read, and to debar them from hearing the Gospel preached, and what sufferings await them when they meet together to worship the Lord.
Slaves are not allowed to read.
In Georgia, a slave State, any justice of the peace may, at his discretion, break up any religious assembly of slaves, and may order each slave present, without trial to be flogged.
In Virginia, all evening meetings of slaves, or of free persons of colour, for any religious purpose, are forbidden. Similar laws exist in other slave States.
The Law affords no protection to the marriage of slaves. The connexion may at any time by legally broken up, to gratify the avarice or licentiousness of the master.
In Georgia, if a white teach a free coloured person or slave to read or write, he is fined £100 and imprisoned at the discretion of the court. If a free coloured man teach, he is to be fined or whipped; of course a father may be flogged for teaching his own child.
In North Carolina, it is unlawful to teach a slave to read or write, or to sell or give him any book or pamphlet, even the Bible.
In Georgia, if a free colored man or negro preaches, he may be seized without warrant, and flogged to the extent of thirty-nine lashes; and the same number of lashes may be applied to each of his hearers.
In Louisiana, the penalty for instructing a free coloured person in a Sabbath school, is, for the first offense 500 dollars; for the second offense - death.
In South Carolina, if a free coloured person assists a run-away slave, he is fined £10; and if unable to pay the fine, he is to be sold into slavery. In 1837, a free woman and her three children were thus sold, for harbouring two slave children.
The slavery interest is so great, as to have induced the free State of Connecticut to pass a law prohibiting schools for free persons of colour who should come from any other State.
In June, 1833, Miss Crandell was imprisoned at Brooklyn, for having opened a school and taught free persons of colour who came from other free States, and her school was broken up.
In addition to these laws, purposely made to keep the slaves and free-coloured population in a state of degradation and ignorance, the Abolitionists have to contend with a powerful prejudice against colour.
In some religious societies there are free coloured persons of great talents and piety, who are acknowledged and ordained as ministers.
S. C., a coloured minister, was called in the course of his duty, to attend a general meeting of the Presbytery of Ministers and Elders; he took an acceptable part in the proceedings of the meeting; but when meal-times arrived, he alone was left uninvited, to grieve over the want of brotherly love and Christian kindness, nor was he invited by any to lodge. The next day the minister of the place, whose duty it was to provide for his brother ministers from a distance, touched with a feeling of this improper conduct, apologized for so great a neglect of Christian duty, proffered him money (which he did not need) to purchase food, and said his own house was full, and therefore he could not take him in to lodge, and that the residents belonging to his Church would not associate with him on account of his colour, although he was an acknowledged member of their own body.
T. S. W. one of the regular pastors of a Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, was traveling with his wife in a steam boat: they were not allowed to go into the cabin at meals with the other passengers, and although his wife was ill, he could not for any money procure a bed, because they were people of colour, but they were obliged to remain on deck, exposed to the chills of the night, by which his wife lost her life.
The perils and dangers to which Abolitionists are exposed may be seen by the following facts: -
Amos Dresser, a poor and pious theological student was employed to sell bibles in a slave State. He was arrested and brought before a self-constituted court, in which were seven elders of a Presbyterian Church and other church members. They judged him guilty of the crime of being an abolitionist, condemned his to be flogged, and near midnight, surrounded by an angry multitude he was stripped, and twenty lashes, with a raw hide, was inflicted on his naked body. When this was over, he in prayer thanked God for having sustained him, and besought that this evil might not be laid to their charge. In fury, they cried, stop his d__d mouth.
The Rev. E. P. Lovejoy, an abolitionist, the editor of a newspaper in a free State, was frequently assailed by a mob; at one time they were kept off by the the extraordinary courage of his wife. On the last occasion, they shot him, and threw his printing press into the river. And such was public sentiment in favour of slavery in the City where these atrocities occurred, that the offenders could not be brought to justice.
Dr. R. Crandall was cast into prison in Washington City, for having in his trunk anti-slavery papers, and detained so long in prison at to occasion his speedy death.
A highly respectable physician, a member of the Society of Friends, and an abolitionist, resident in a free State was, in his own house, assailed by a mob of persons calling themselves respectable: he was thrown by them violently on the floor, and required to promise that he would not thenceforth advocate the cause of the oppressed slave and coloured people. He refused to comply with this unrighteous demand. They trod on his neck, and otherwise ill-treated him - pointed a gun at him, and threatened to burn his house, and drive him away, but all in vain - he remained true to the cause of justice and mercy. God restrained the mob from taking his life.
Rev. George Storrs was dragged from his knees while in prayer, by the Deputy Sheriff, because he had delivered an address against slavery. At another time, he was, for the sane offense arrested in the pulpit, by authority of a writ from a Justice, and the Governor of the State indirectly sanctioned the deed.
Mr. Preston, in debate, on the floor of the Senate of the United States said, "Let an abolitionist come within the borders of South Carolina, if we can catch him, we will try him, and notwithstanding all the interference of all the Governments on earth, including the federal government, we will hang him."
Mr. Hammond, a member of Congress from South Carolina used on the the floor of Congress the following language: "I warn the Abolitionists, ignorant, infatuated barbarians as they are, that if chance shall throw any one of them into our hands, he may expect a felon's death"
Many of the slaves in the United States are white, both men and women, children of American Citizens. Slavery was the lot of the daughters of Jefferson, President of the United States. Attempts are made to reduce foreigners to slavery. It is not long since, the slave dealers seized a poor Irish woman, and although she protested she was from Ireland, she was only rescued by great efforts of the Abolitionists in a court of law.
Breeding slaves is one of the great staples in trade of Virginia. Children are there reared for the market like oxen for the shambles. The sale of slaves from this State, in 1836; amounted to twenty-four millions of dollars.
The streets of the City of Washington, the sear of Government are often crowded, on the Sabbath with manacled captives, on their way from the northern to the southern slave States.
This trade in blood, this buying, imprisoning and exporting of men, women, boys and girls; this tearing asunder of husbands and wives, parents and children, to the disgrace of the United States, is all legalized by virtue of authority delegated by Congress, in the following enactment of date July, 28, 1831, viz. "For license to trade or traffic in slaves:" for which license to commit iniquity that nation, boasting of the greatest freedom on earth, exacts the sum of 400 dollars, or £80, the price of blood, to fill its treasury.